Norway’s western coast offers some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere. Indeed, it has been called “the world’s best travel destination.” What makes this area so spectacular is the fjords - - inlets that cut deep into the country’s interior surrounded by mountain walls that tower as much as 5,000 feet over the sea.
Looking up at the sheer rock cliffs, it is easy to lose perspective. It is not until one sees a “ladder farm” perched on a small patch of arable land cut into the rock
that one realizes how immense these mountains are. Clouds and snow can be whirling around the peeks above while the greenery of Spring or Summer adorns the valleys that intersect with the fjords.
For the most part this area is undeveloped and in its natural state. There are a few small cities, towns and villages. However, the overall feel is that 21st Century civilization is quite remote.
While the primary attraction of a fjord cruise is the scenery, there is also a cultural element. There are historic landmarks and museums devoted to Norwegian history from the time of the Vikings to today’s North Sea oil exploration. For outdoor enthusiasts, there is hiking and kayaking.
Prices in Norway tend to be expensive relative to elsewhere. Thus, shopping focuses primarily on local Norwegian crafts and products. Norway is not a member of the European Union and has its own currency - - the Norwegian kroner.
Above: P&O Cruises' Ventura cruising the fjords.
Below: MSC Opera in the fjords.
CRUISING TO THE FJORDS
Cruise ships are a perfect way to see this area. Because the area is so mountainous, it is difficult to travel overland. That is one of the reasons the Vikings turned to the sea as their primary mode of transportation. Many Norwegians still use ships to get
from one fjord town to another. In addition, the fjords were carved by ancient glaciers that retreated with the end of the last Ice Age. As a result, they are quite deep - - in some cases deeper than the surrounding sea - - and thus cruise ships have no problem navigating these waters. Moreover, one can see much of the remarkable scenery without leaving the comfort of the ship.
The cruise season runs from early May into September. The weather tends to be cool. It is also variable. A sunny day can become stormy and vice versa.
Since they are close to the Artic Circle, the fjords have lots of daylight during the Spring and Summer. Late in the evening, the sun dips below the horizon only to reappear a short time later in the wee hours of the morning.
Cruise ships are able to dock in most fjord ports. However, in the smaller towns, if there are a number of ships calling, one or more may have to tender its passengers ashore.
Many of the major cruise lines have at least one ship that will call in the fjords during the course of a season. Many of these sail from the British ports, especially Southampton. However, there are also some fjord cruises from other European ports.
n addition to the major cruise lines, there are some
smaller cruise lines offering fjord cruises.
Also, Norwegian passenger ships and ferries that call in the towns and cities in the fjords. Hurtigurten is the most prominent of these lines.
Not all cruises to Norway go to the fjords. What the industry often refers to as a “Scandinavian cruise” usually will call in Norway’s capital Oslo but then will enter the Baltic to visit Denmark and Sweden rather than go up Norway’s coast.
Along the same lines, most fjord cruises do not go above the Artic Circle. However, what are referred to as “North Cape cruises” sometimes will call in one or more of the fjord ports on the way to or from the area north of the Artic Circle.
On the following pages, we look at several ports often visited on fjord cruises. Not every cruise stops in all of these ports and there are cruises that stop in other ports. However, the ones included here give a feel for the variety of this region.
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Cruise destination profile - Norway - Norwegian Fjords - Overview